The report also makes it clear that responsibility begins with Chancellor Katehi. Katehi not only pushed to have the tents removed but failed to communicate clearly her intentions about how it should be done. But the responsibility was not hers alone. It continues through her Vice-Chancellors who failed to incorporate and make clear all the evidence about the protests that they were provided with, onto the Chief of Police who failed to organize the police action sufficiently or to explain to the higher administration all of the reasons why moving on the tents might be a bad idea, and concludes with the specific officers on the ground whose use of pepper spray was not only inappropriate but in violation of regulations. The effects of these decisions on free speech at Davis cannot be underestimated. As the ACLU notes in its own analysis of the Task Force Report: "When the cost of speech is a shot of blinding, burning pepper spray in the face, speech is not free."
It is difficult to see how the upper administration can continue to claim moral authority over the campus although given the vagueness of the recommendations (29-32) it is unclear what repercussions there will be for the administration. While laudably calling upon the upper administration to develop--in collaboration with the campus community--a widespread set of understandings about the importance of protests and the ways to ensure that campus safety takes precedence over the administrative will to campus order, the recommendations tend towards the bureaucratic. That is to say, in keeping with a large amount of the report, the recommendations are about the techniques of policing rather than their purpose.
The emphasis on the techniques of policing, while perhaps understandable given the Task Force's charge (5), raises a larger question concerning UC's larger response to protests on campus and at Regents' meetings. Two things stand out: first, the Reynoso Task Force indicates that they did not investigate communication between UCOP and the UCD administration. (6) There is, as far as I know, no effort underway to determine what role if any UCOP has played in responses to protest both on different campuses and at Regents' meetings (other than the fact that President Yudof had a conference call to Chancellor's last fall). This enigma takes on greater importance when we look more closely at the reasoning behind the Davis actions in the light of the larger questions of policing across the UC system.
As the Reynoso Task Force Report emphasizes, the Katehi administration moved so precipitously and forcefully against the peaceful encampment because of their fear of the larger Occupy movement (especially in Oakland) and their anxieties that they might lose control of the campus if the urban Occupy movement successfully coalesced with campus protests:
When tents went up on the Quad on Nov. 17, the longstanding protest against high and rising tuition and fees in the UC found expression through the tactics of the national Occupy movement. Campus administrators focused on the relation of this event to other Occupy movement encampments. Political demonstrations are not uncommon at Davis and the Quad occupies a unique status as the traditional location where protests occur. It is a central and highly visible location which makes it an ideal location for speakers to reach the audience they are addressing, the university community. It is also a location where robust expressive activity can occur without unreasonably interfering with the University’s ability to perform its duties of teaching and research or unduly burdening the interests of non-protesting students, staff, and faculty. The administration did not consider the Occupy movement encampment to be a conventional campus protest. The Leadership Team appeared to perceive it as a vehicle through which non-affiliates might enter the campus and endanger students. (11)As the Report indicates, the Chancellor and her inner circle were so afraid of these "non-affiliates" that they ignored reports from Student Affairs that in fact the protesters were students and faculty. Nor did they consider the possibility that if safety was truly the issue they might use the UCDPD to ensure the protesters safety rather than to remove them. Indeed, as the Task Force indicates, the Student Affairs officials were correct and Katehi's inner circle was wrong (7-12) but the leadership was unwilling to take the time to determine this fact.
As we have seen across this year, the Davis Administration's anxiety about intensifying protests over tuition and the danger of losing control of campus space has been a recurrent theme. As I noted last week 12 protesters have recently been charged with 20 misdemeanors relating to the protest at the campus' US Bank branch office. Considering that even by the accounts provided in the complaint letters there were far more than 12 people involved, the selective nature of the prosecution seems evident (and this leaves aside the fact that they are being charged with blocking public sidewalks!). And given that one of the 12 is Joshua Clover who has been one of the most outspoken and consistent critics of the increasing tuition burdens placed on students at UC, the selective nature of the prosecution seems even clearer. That the DA would wait 2 months to bring charges and then do so in such a selective manner suggests something more than simple law enforcement. That the Davis administration has been in touch with the DA to identify possible protesters reinforces that point. That convictions on all counts could lead to 10 years imprisonment is more chilling. It is hard to see any purpose beyond attempted intimidation of dissent.
Of course, Davis has not been the only site of such policing and prosecution. The Davis Pepper spraying occurred after the use of batons at Berkeley, and the UCBPD has also identified protesters for prosecution whether or not they had been arrested at the scene. Both Chancellor Birgeneau and Vice-Chancellor Breslauer shared Chancellor Katehi's fears about the Occupy movement and were, arguably, more connected to what was actually happening when campus police deployed violence. More recently, 3 UCLA students were arrested at the latest Regents Meeting while they were leaving. They were charged, as best I can determine for their interactions with UCPD. Two kept over night and held on substantial bail (one over $10,000 and one over $60,000). Once again, there were far more people at these events than those arrested. And according to some reports the UCLA students who were arrested had been pointed out by a member of UCLAPD.
Both in what it says, and in what it does not address, the Reynoso Task Force in the context of UC's ongoing reaction to protest raises more questions than it answers. Administrators across the system seem far more concerned with campus order than with campus safety; more concerned with delimiting than with embracing free speech and dissent, more inclined to see student and faculty protesters as outside infections than as members of a community fighting desperately to protect the University of California and its ideals.
Were the Davis administrators assuming that protest was criminal? Is UCOP? It is hard not to think so. But is this what they wish for their epitaph: They criminalized dissent and policed their students, staff, and faculty exercise of free speech? If so, it is hard to see why they should retain authority over a great Public University.